Lawmakers Prepare for Health Care Reform Action During Memorial Day Recess; Advocacy Groups Promote Reform Agendas
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been given "talking points" on health care reform to discuss with constituents during the Memorial Day recess as House and Senate committees work to develop comprehensive reform bills by mid-June, Politico reports (Budoff Brown, Politico, 5/26). According to The Hill, talking points distributed to Democrats in both chambers urge lawmakers to reassure constituents that congressional Democrats are working to improve and not threaten the current U.S. health care system.
The Senate Democrats' talking points memo states, "We cannot delay this discussion any longer," adding, "Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of health care this year" (Rushing/Alarkon, The Hill, 5/23). According to the memo, health care reform will "reduce costs to make health care affordable," "protect a patient's choice of doctor and insurance plan" and "assure quality, affordable health care for all Americans." The memo also encourages lawmakers to hold "health care reform action forums" during the recess with constituents. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Friday said that Democrats "have held more than 170 health care events in their districts already, with another 100-plus events planned for the Memorial Day district work period" (Friedman/House, CongressDaily, 5/22).
In a memo by Democratic strategist Paul Begala that was distributed to lawmakers along with other recess materials, Begala urges Democrats to refer to Republicans as defenders of the flaws in the current health care system, including health insurers interfering with medical decisions and helping increase health care costs. He wrote, "There is one fact that animates the Republicans' strategy. It should animate yours, as well. That fact is this: The overwhelming majority of Americans support health care reform," adding, "If health care reform were unpopular, Republicans would not resort to misleading rhetoric to mask their opposition" (Politico, 5/26).
Meanwhile, the Senate Republican Conference's "Getaway Card" for the Memorial Day recess provides lawmakers with talking points about how health care overhaul should allow for all U.S. residents to have access to affordable health coverage provided by patient-selected physicians, avoid long wait times and be "patient-centered, not Washington-centered." The House Republican leaders are encouraging members to focus on Democrats' push for a "complete government takeover of health care," while characterizing Republican efforts as the right health care reform "that puts patients first" (CongressDaily, 5/22). The kit includes four pages of tips similar to recommendations made by Republican consultant Frank Luntz (Politico, 5/26). The New York Times Magazine on Sunday included an interview with Luntz that included his views on health care reform (Solomon, New York Times Magazine, 5/24).
In other health reform news, several unions, led by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have launched a $60,000 advertising campaign in Oregon oppose to Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) Healthy Americans Act (S 391), claiming that the legislation would tax employer-sponsored health plans (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 5/25). Wyden is airing a radio ad in Portland and Eugene defending his plan and stating that claims made in the ad are "not true" (Bolton, The Hill, 5/22).
Meanwhile, AARP is encouraging its members to attend a series of listening sessions on health care hosted by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) (Politico, 5/26). The Washington Post on Sunday examined how health care has become the most important issue of Baucus' career (Murray/Connolly, Washington Post, 5/24).